Yesterday, Chris Johnson inked a deal with the New York Jets for 2 years. This lead to a discussion on WGR 550 in the afternoon about who has the best running back group within the AFC East. Through callers and twitter tweets listeners gave their opinions on who had the best running back group in the AFC East.
While listening, I heard every running backs name from all the teams and why they were better than the rest. Spiller has the break away speed, Johnson is a home run hitter, Jackson is a work horse, the Patriots do because of Tom Brady, every team is when they play the Bills, etc. etc.
The one thing I didn’t hear throughout the segment was any mention of offensive lines. Ladies and Gentleman, it doesn’t come down to what running back you have as in this day and age they are a dime a dozen. Maybe if we had this discussion years ago with the likes of Herschel Walker, Thurman, OJ, Jim Brown, Barry Sanders and so on, then we could talk about the backs and their abilities. But all of these running backs today, are so similar in abilities, speed and power, with very little difference between them, that it really doesn’t matter what back you have. Spiller and Jackson can both take it to the house, with a hole. As can any other back in the league, let alone the AFC East. The key is with a hole.
Who creates the holes; offensive lineman. So instead of who has the best running back group in the East? The question should be who has the best offensive line, which will then tell us the best running back group.
As for rushing stats, the Bills lead the East and the AFC in rushing yards per game with 144.0. The Jets, Patriots and Dolphins followed in that order. The Bills also lead with attempts finishing with 546 more than 50 more than any other team, as well as yards at 2,307 for the year, just about 150 more than anyone else.
Are rushing stats enough to determine who has a better offensive line and running back group? Defensively, the Patriots were the worst against the run with the Bills, Dolphins, and Jets progressively getting better. The Jets were the best against the run for the entire AFC only allowing 88.2 yards per game.
You also have to take into account whether or not the teams are playing from behind or with the lead. You won’t run the ball if you are behind.
All these factors have to be taken into account before a determination can be made. So who has the best running back group or for that matter offensive line? Statistically, the Bills do. Will the signing of Chris Johnson propel the Jets to the best running team in the East? Will the Bills move Fred Jackson back to the starter with Spiller in relief for that home run every once in a while? Will Shane Vereen and Steven Ridley for the Patriots be the ones to add that second dimension for Tom Brady and Co., or will the law firm of Moreno, Miller, and Thigpen be the deciding factor for the Dolphins?
Who do you think has the best running backs/ offensive line for the East?